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E02977: Peter Chrysologus, bishop of Ravenna (attested 448/449, died before 458), preaches a Latin sermon in Ravenna, for the feast of the first bishop of the city and martyr, *Apollinaris (S00331).

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posted on 2017-06-13, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 128, De natale sancti Apolenaris ('On the feast of saint Apollinaris')

§ 1: Beatus Apolenaris primus sacerdotio, solus hanc ecclesiam vernaculo atque inclito martyrii honore decoravit.

'Blessed Apollinaris, the first in the priesthood, alone adorned this church with the exceptional honor of having one of her own martyred.'

The sermon continues praising Apollinaris for keeping the faith, then notes:

Nec eum quisquam confessoris vocabulo minorem credat esse quam martyrem, quem dei nutu cotidianum et multiplicem reversum conspicit ad agonem ... Non tam mors quam fides et devotio martyrem facit; et sicut virtutis est in acie, in conflictu, pro regis amore subcumbere, ita perfectae virtutis est diu agere et consumare certamina. Non ideo perfunctum martyrem, quia non intulit mortem, sed probavit martyrem, quia non elicuit fidem ...

‘Let no one suppose that he is anything less than a martyr on account of his title as Confessor, since it is well known that it was God’s will that he kept returning to the contest at least on a daily basis ... It is not death as much as faith and dedication that make one a martyr; and just as it is a mark of virtue to fall in battle, in conflict, for the love of the king, so it is a mark of perfect virtue to engage in combat for a long time and to bring it to its conclusion. Therefore the enemy did not make him a martyr, since he did not inflict death, but he proved him to be a martyr, because he did not remove his faith ...

§ 2: Fundebat saepe confessor sanguinem suum, suisque vulneribus, fide mentis, suum testabatur auctorem ... Vicit tamen, tenuit, et a suo desiderio retardari martyrem tenera adhuc ecclesiae impetravit infantia.

‘The confessor often used to shed his blood, and with his wounds and with faith in his heart he kept bearing witness to his Creator ... Nevertheless, the Church still in her tender infancy conquered, held fast, and succeeded in delaying his martyrdom by her longing.’

The sermon concludes, noting that the bishop (antistes) Apollinaris is the shepherd of Ravenna’s flock and refers to his tomb:

§ 3: Praecessit, dico, habitu: cetero ipsa inter nos corporis sui habitatio requiescit.

‘He has gone ahead, I mean, in his earthly condition; in another respect, the very dwelling that is his body reposes among us.’

Text: Olivar 1982, 789-791. Translation: Palardy 2005, 192-194.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Apollinaris, bishop of Ravenna and martyr, ob. 69/79 : S00331

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Peter Chrysologus

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


Peter Chrysologus was bishop of Ravenna in the second quarter of the 5th century. The chronology of his life remains uncertain: he is attested as bishop in 448/449 and he died before 458 when there is evidence of his successor Neo receiving a letter from pope Leo the Great: see PCBE 2, 'Petrus Chrysologus 9', pp. 1728-9. While most of Peter's sermons were transmitted in a collection put together by bishop Felix of Ravenna in the 8th century, the current body of sermons attributed to him has been established and critically edited by Olivar, who rejected a number of sermons from Felix's collection as spurious and added 15 sermons not transmitted in the collection but which he considered authentic. All the sermons were preached in Ravenna, generally on specific topics or liturgical feasts that can be identified. Most, however, do not bear indications of their date, although Olivar has attempted to find chronological units within Felix' collection. For an overview of these sermons and hypotheses on their chronology, see A. Olivar, Los sermones de San Pedro Crisologo: estudio critico (Montserrat, 1962); F. Sottocornola, L’anno liturgico nei sermoni di Pietro Crisologo (Cesena, 1973); V. Zangara, “I silenzi nella predicazione di Pietro Crisologo”, Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa 32 (1996), 225-265, and further bibliography in W.B. Palardy, Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons, vol. 2, (Fathers of the Church 109; Washington DC, 2004), xiii-xvi.


This sermon was perhaps delivered on 23 July, the commonly accepted date of Apollinaris' feast. It provides evidence that, by the 5th century, Apollinaris was venerated as the first bishop and only martyr of Ravenna (§ 1), and his body was kept in the same city (§ 3), thus agreeing with his martyrdom account (E02088). The sermon however also includes an intriguing discussion (§§ 1-2) about Apollinaris' status as a martyr: it replies to objections that Apollinaris was a confessor rather than a martyr, because, although he suffered over a long time, he did not die as the immediate consequence of violence. Peter argues that it is not so much a martyr's death, as his faith and devotion that make a martyr. This may seem to contrast with Apollinaris’ status as a martyr emphasised in his martyrdom account, as noted in Everett 2016, 141. Moreover, Peter does not mention the apostle Peter, who is said in the Martyrdom to have sent Apollinaris to Ravenna. Everett assumes therefore that the sermon predates the Martyrdom and that there was confusion over Apollinaris’ status. We should, however, note that the sermon remains vague about Apollinaris’ life and still refers to Apollinaris shedding blood. Thus, while there is no evidence to suggest that Peter knew or used the martyrdom account, it is possible that the tradition on which Peter built his sermon broadly corresponded to that presented in the Martyrdom: Apollinaris, martyr and confessor, suffered many struggles but remained the head of Ravenna’s church for many years. According to the martyrdom account, at last, after being beaten and surviving for seven days, still taking care of the community, he died. This is not wholly incompatible with Peter’s sermon emphasising the long struggle of Apollinaris, who was kept alive to care for the infant Church of Ravenna.


Edition: Olivar, A., Petrus Chrysologus, Sermones (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 24B; Turnhout, 1982), 789-791. Translation: Palardy, W.B., Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons. Volume 3 (Fathers of The Church 110; Washington D.C, 2005), 192-194. Further reading: Everett, N., Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy AD c. 350-800 (Toronto, 2016), 139-170.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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